BOSTON — The weather outside the TD BankNorth Garden on Monday evening was brisk but fair … but as far as the Northeastern Huskies could tell, it was blizzard conditions inside.
The Harvard Crimson scored in triplicate in the opening period, and dominated the 13th-ranked Huskies for frequent and significant portions of the game. Captain Mike Taylor scored a goal and an assist, the Ivy killed all six of its penalties, and sophomore goaltender Kyle Richter stopped 18 of 19 in the 3-1 victory.
The Crimson struck like a midwinter nor’easter, blinding the Husky rearguard with a flurry of shots. Barely two minutes into the contest, Shrewsbury, Mass., senior Paul Dufault potted Harvard’s first goal by burying a cross-crease dribbler from classmate Jon Pelle that NU goalie Brad Thiessen never located.
It was only the beginning of a long argument between Thiessen and the red iron, as captain Mike Taylor successfully jammed a wraparound through the goalie’s pads six and a half minutes into the contest.
Watertown, Mass., native Doug Rogers twisted the knife even further toward the Huskies’ hearts when he picked up a rebound low in the center-slot. Rogers made no mistake with the disc, popping the puck over Thiessen’s blocker for a 3-0 Harvard lead only 7:02 into the game.
“Hockey’s a game of one-on-one battles,” led NU head coach Greg Cronin, “and from the onset Harvard wanted to win the puck battles more than Northeastern.
“They smashed it down our throats,” he added.
The Huskies barely tested Harvard netminder Kyle Richter in the opening frame, only attempting a mere dozen shots, of which only half found their way to the net. Harvard, meanwhile, slung a more vigorous 15 shots on net in the first.
“I don’t care what level of hockey it is, you can’t give up multiple shots within 10 feet of the paint,” said Cronin.
“We had over 3,000 people in the building, and I want to apologize to them,” the coach confessed.
The second period appeared to be more of the same from a statistical perspective. But with two periods in the books, the Huskies were a goal closer than they had been 20 minutes prior.
The frame started as inauspiciously for the ‘Dogs as the first, as the Cantabs applied intense pressure to the wandering pucks that floated with frequency through Thiessen’s crease. Harvard’s leading goal-scorer Michael Biega nearly upped his season total to 10 with a wide-open net in his sights, but Thiessen made a remarkable grasping grab of Biega’s shot to hold the deficit at three.
Harvard outshot Northeastern 11-3 in the first 10 minutes of the second, and 26-9 overall by the game’s halfway point. Northeastern suffered from chronic inaccuracy in the passing game, succumbing to a fierce and persistent Crimson forecheck. While the Huskies made sporadic one- and two-man stabs toward Richter’s net, he and his blueliners easily deflected the undermanned advances.
“We believed that our speed would help us establish our forecheck,” said Harvard head coach Ted Donato, himself a Harvard alumnus and Beanpot veteran.
Despite being outshot 16-6 in the middle 20, the period’s lone goal came off the stick of Northeastern’s — and Milford, Mass.’ — own Ryan Ginand. The junior winger stuck the stone right on the button inside Richter’s right post with only 28 seconds before the siren; the puck slipped over the goal line with just enough haste to count before being swept out by the tardy Crimson D.
The third period was a different matter entirely. Northeastern dumped its game-high 19 attempted shots Richter’s way, while Harvard only released six. Fewer than six minutes into the period, Richter made one of a handful of key saves when he dove back and to his left with his glove to hold the far post against an NU power play. The Crimson were whistled for three penalties to the Huskies’ one, but the Ivy’s bend-but-don’t-break defense held the fort against strong but inconsistent pressure.
“We were too composed the whole game,” said Cronin of his team’s attitude. “There was very little energy, very little sustained energy [from Northeastern].
“We were playing hockey. They were out to win a hockey game,” he concluded.
The Crimson bounced back from a 1-8-2 stretch to advance to their first Beanpot championship since 1998 and their 25th overall.
“We’ve had a lot of frustration in the last … while … in the Beanpot,” said Donato, groping for words.
“Hard practice on Saturday was something we had to do to focus,” said Richter of his team’s refocusing following a 4-1 loss at Brown on Friday.
“Growing up in Boston, the Beanpot’s very important to me … [but] I’m particularly happy about my senior class,” who are finally playing in their first Beanpot championship game next Monday night, said Donato.
The Crimson improve to 8-10-3 on the season, and take on Union at the Achilles Center on Friday night before tilting against Boston College at 8 p.m. next Monday.
Northeastern dropped to 12-9-3, and fell to 1-4-1 in its last six games. The Huskies travel to Merrimack on Friday night, and will take on Boston University next Monday afternoon at 5 p.m.